The Nature Report: Community Theater

Courtesy of Nicholas Tillinghast

I’d like to start this edition of “Nature” off with a bird count for the week: seven house sparrows, one white-breasted nuthatch, one titmouse, one blue jay, one cardinal, two chickadees, one downy woodpecker, one red-bellied woodpecker, a plethora of Canada geese and zero California condors. You might be asking yourself, Nick, why did you include the largest North American land bird, a bird that’s native to the West Coast, on this list? Well, if someone would like to give me the gift of meeting a great big California condor for my birthday, I would give that person a great big hug. Take notes, mom.

This week I met with many of the different nature communities and viewed all of their different performances, some rivaling Broadway’s “Wicked.” Enjoy their various scenes.   

Sept. 27, 11:42 a.m.: As a valued member of the Skinner Greenhouse staff, I get paid to kill a lot of plants. That particular Monday, I was taking out plants in front of Sanders Physics. The only problem was that there was a bumblebee buzzing around the flowers, picking up pollen, oblivious to my destructive intentions. A tub of guilt swelled within me. I should have reminded myself at that moment that there are plenty of plants in the sea, and that I shouldn’t have been worried if I killed just a few of the bumblebee’s friends. But what if I killed its favorite flower? The bumblebee had been nothing but nice to me in my life, unlike the wasp who had been rude and brazenly tried to eat my blueberry muffin with me although I didn’t invite him.

Sept 30, 11:00 a.m.: In my continued war against plants, I uprooted some potted ones that Wednesday. In one pot, I found a bug community under the roots––a metropolis of ants and pill bugs. I’m assuming the pill bugs are like cars to the ants in the city of soil, and, similar to the cars in the movie “Cars,” they are just as alive. 

Sept. 30, 6:28 p.m. (Intermission): I saw a group of people holding their phone cameras up to the sky in excitement. There were a few things I could think of that they could have seen in the sky and would have prompted this reaction: Superman, a California condor or a romantic airplane banner that said something like “Jennifer, I’m sorry I cheated.” It’s the repair in the relationship that ultimately counts. I looked over the sky before finally I just saw it. From carmine to orchid, it was all there: a rainbow. After a drizzly afternoon there seemed to be a promise of a brighter day.  

Oct. 2 1:56 p.m: The sky kept that promise for a nice warm weekend for parents, none of which were mine (I wonder how you could make that up to me, Mom). While looking for additional birds to report on for the week, I found something that wasn’t a bird but rather a respectable fish. I was passing by a young fisherman at Sunset Lake who was reeling in his pole when suddenly a fish popped out of the water on his line. I’m no fish expert, but us naturalists sometimes must confer with our fellow experts to get the complete story. He told me it was a small bass and that he had hooked some bigger ones earlier but was unable to reel them in. I decided to believe that second part. I got a quick snap of the small bass and bid the young fisherman good luck with his work. I continued my walk and then immediately passed a sign that said “no fishing.” Considering the fisherman did not seem like the violent type though, I assumed he released the little bass back to the fish community and no father fish was left asking, “Have you seen my son?” No harm no foul.

Courtesy of Nicholas Tillinghast

Later in my investigatory bird walk, I found a path off by the golf course that seemed to house a community of birds. It was that afternoon when I first heard the call of the little catbird, which sounded a bit like a very perturbed cat. This is how the catbird communicates its feelings to the world. Now think about a time when you’ve had trouble communicating your feelings. Could this have been improved by sounding like a hurt cat? Something to think about.

This week I met with the earth, sky and water communities and greatly increased my scope of nature. I answered the question of, “What lives in those waters, that soil, those trees?” I can now answer that question. There are plants, bugs, fish and birds in these places, with each animal playing their own part in the nature theatre. Just as well, I play my own part in the community too. In Nature’s community production, I’d like to think I’m Glinda to the Catbird’s Elphaba. 

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